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Being Productive Is About Using The Morning Well. Here’s The Trick You Should Start Today.

Being Productive Is About Using The Morning Well. Here’s The Trick You Should Start Today.

Being productive can be hard. Perhaps you’ve fallen into a routine of getting up at a certain time, getting into work and slumping down at your desk or place of work with no energy, motivation or direction. We live in a society where procrastination is literally at our fingertips with social media and access to smart phones causing endless distractions and taking away our focus.

However, there is a way to achieve this – a way to achieve optimal performance and productivity – that can change your whole outlook on the traditional work life and transforming each day into a happier, more productive and flexible option.

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It’s All About The Mornings

If you’re not a morning person then it may be time to change your mindset – research has found there is an ideal structure to your day that creates optimum results and also the flexibility we crave when we’re stuck in our 9-5 framework. The problem with our current 9-5 tradition of working is that it forces us to work at times when our brain isn’t motivated. We have the mindset that we have a long day to get our work done which causes our brain to go into relaxation mode and it becomes harder to focus.

Like exercise, our bodies gain better results when we do short, intense periods rather than long, drawn out methods. It’s then in the recovery process where growth occurs – like muscles recovering after an intense workout.

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So what does this mean? Well, the best way to achieve optimum work productivity is to focus intensely for the first 3 hours of your day. This is the optimum time that our brains work – straight after sleep when willpower and self-control is at its maximum.

How The First 3 Hours Can Save Your Day

It may not feel like it when you first wake up but your energy levels are at their optimum following sleep and these energy levels are gradually depleted as the day progresses meaning it’s harder for you to focus and make decisions.

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How often have you dragged yourself to work and headed straight for the coffee machine because you can’t possibly function until you’re at least on your third cup of caffeine? This is where you’re potentially going wrong – the first 3 hours of your day will ultimately make you or break you.

It’s during this period that you can power through and make the most of your day. Creating a routine where the first 3 hours are intense periods of work, with pure focus and no distractions will actually cause you to complete the majority of your work at a more optimum level leaving the rest of the day for your brain to relax and deal with less taxing projects.

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In fact, if you liken it to exercise, doing a 3-hour intense work period will cause you to reap the benefits later on in the day because the rest of the day will become a recovery period. After exercise, this is when your muscles start to recover and get stronger, and similarly after working your brain intensely for 3 hours, the recovery period afterwards causes the mind to loosely wander and creative ideas and inspirations start to enter.

How To Implement The 3-Hour Morning

Your morning is the key to a successful day so it’s best to start getting into a morning mindset. That means getting to bed at a reasonable time managing to get a full night’s sleep so you wake refreshed and ready for the day.

  1. Wake as early as possible: Try and start a routine of getting up early because the more hours you have in the morning, the more time you have to be productive for the rest of the day. It’s not actually as hard as you think, after a couple of weeks your body and mind will start to get used to early rises and it will begin to become second nature (especially when you realise the true benefits).
  2. Eat a good protein-rich breakfast: It’s essential that you start the day with a good eating routine and that means the right kind of fuel for your brain and the rest of your body so you can work at your optimum level first thing. A protein-rich breakfast will help regulate blood-sugar levels and stop hunger pangs later on in the morning.
  3. Avoid stimulants: Getting up early, you’ll be tempted to grab that cup of coffee but avoid anything that will wake you up unnaturally. A good way to wake up is to switch your water to cold in the last minute of showering to give you a boost.
  4. Meditate: Meditation is an amazing way to focus and clear the mind and doing this first thing will help calm your whole body and set your mindset up for the morning. It helps give clarity for any goals you have or even bring inspiration to a problem you might be having. You can do this before you leave the house, on your commute to work if you have one, or once you arrive at work.
  5. Put away all distractions: The beauty of getting up early is that there are less people to distract you or cause you stress. Make sure you put away your phone and make a conscious effort not to check social media or emails for the next 3 hours. Listening to a song on repeat or music such as sounds of nature are a good way to help focus the brain and stop outside noises from interrupting your concentration.
  6. Once done, take a mental break and notice the calming difference and sense of achievement: This may seem like an unconventional way to use your mornings and possibly take time to get used to, but it’s all worth it for the sense of achievement and efficiency you’ll feel. The chances are this act of focusing for 3 hours will have caused you to get much more work done than a whole typical day put together. After the 3 hours, go for a walk and take a break – your mind will feel relaxed which will then be the optimum time for creativity to occur allowing the best ideas to come to you.

So remember to protect your mornings. Some of us will find this hard especially if, say, you have kids to run around after or have a particularly long commute but adopting the mindset of making your mornings precious and distraction-free can help structure a much more productive and happy day.

Featured photo credit: unsplash.com via pexels.com

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Jenny Marchal

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

Instead, we’re going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

How Do We Remember?

The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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The last step is memory retrieval.

That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

7 Natural Memory Boosters

So how to work on memory and boost your brain power? Here’re 7 brain boosters backed by science that you should try:

1. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory. [2]

In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

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Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

2. Sleep

You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password). [3]

Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance. [4]

Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance. [5]

3. MIND Diet

Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet. [6]

The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

4. Relax

We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

5. Continuous Learning

The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games. [7]

Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

6. Stay Social

The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

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Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline. [8]

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests. [9]

What to do?

Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

7. Wakeful Rest

This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories. [10]

What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story. In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date. [11]

Conclusion

You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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